By Tim Murry
Photography By Rony Shram
Styling By Billi Causieestko
The sexy girl next door has come into her own on stage—this time in a bittersweet comedy about a black actress in Hollywood’s golden age.
Everybody knows Sanaa Lathan, but few know of Theresa Harris. The former is a lovely, talented actress in her prime who received a Tony nomination in 2004 for her work in Broadway’s A Raisin in the Sun and gained mainstream recognition in the films Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, Something New, and Out of Time with Denzel Washington. She also provides the voice for Donna, the wife on the satirical cartoon The Cleveland Show, and will appear this fall in Steven Soderbergh’s new thriller, Contagion, along with Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Marion Cotillard.
The latter, Theresa Harris, was a talented actress in her prime during the 1930s and ’40s, which meant that
she played—over and over and over again—bit parts as maids and slaves in films starring famous divas like Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, and Barbara Stanwyck. Though Harris was in nearly 100 movies over 30 years, the camera hardly ever lingered on her face, which was luminous and intelligent, even in dowdy domestic’s garb. She died in obscurity in 1985.
It is Harris’ life that is the inspiration behind Lynn Nottage’s new play, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, which began previews in April at Second Stage Theatre in New York City and offi cially opens there on May 9 with Lathan in the title role.